For thousands of years, from ancient Indians, Chinese, Arabians to the Romans, ginger has been used as a spice and a medicine. Although it is commonly described as a root, it is in fact a rhizome, a stem that grows out from the plant underground, and from which small roots will sprout, as well as new green shoots.
Ginger is commonly used to treat various types of “stomach problems,” including motion sickness, morning sickness, colic, upset stomach, gas, diarrhea, nausea caused by cancer treatment, nausea and vomiting after surgery, as well as loss of appetite. Other uses include pain relief from arthritis or muscle soreness, menstrual pain, upper respiratory tract infections, cough, and bronchitis. Ginger is also sometimes used for chest pain, low back pain, and stomach pain.
For culinary uses, ginger usually comes in powdered form or fresh. Fresh ginger rhizome has a thin brown skin and pale flesh inside. The younger rhizomes have a mild taste, but the later they are harvested, the more pungent they are.
The Chinese have been using ginger in Chinese cuisine for thousands of years. Its pungent flavor is a great compliment to many dishes and it effectively removes fishy flavor in fish and other seafood. Ginger and garlic are common and must-have in Chinese stir-fry dishes.
In India, fresh ginger is one of the main spices used for making pulse and lentil curries and other vegetable preparations. Fresh, as well as dried, ginger is used to spice tea and coffee, especially in winter. Ginger powder is also used in certain food preparations, particularly for pregnant or nursing women, the most popular one being katlu which is a mixture of gum resin, ghee, nuts, and sugar.
In Japan, ginger is pickled to make beni shoga and gari or grated and used raw on tofu or noodles. It is also made into a candy called shoga no sato zuke. In the traditional Korean kimchi, ginger is either finely minced or just juiced in order to avoid the fibrous texture and added to the ingredients of the spicy paste just before the fermenting process.
In the West, one of the most popular uses of ginger in the kitchen is to make candy or sweets such as ginger ale, gingerbread, ginger snaps, parkin, ginger biscuits and speculaas. For baking, powdered ginger is typically used, but the ground or powdered version isn’t really as good as the fresh.
With its health benefits and uniquely pungent flavor, using ginger in the kitchen makes perfect sense and I have chosen ginger to be the ingredient of the month for our July’s Little Thumbs Up event which I am hosting.
I look forward to seeing all your recipes using ginger in any forms including ground ginger, ginger root, pickled ginger, and more.